Business

Are you a ‘TIMID' Driver?

Tractors, tankers, jeeps and spreaders have now arisen from their winter slumber and owners should take time to check the safety and roadworthiness of their equipment
Richard Henderson

ALTHOUGH Easter may almost be upon us I still hesitate to believe that this never-ending winter has finally had its last gasp. They do say, however, that no spring skips a turn – so have faith!

There are many signs to herald the arrival of spring. It could be nesting birds or buds on the trees. A rather more prosaic sign, though, which is every bit as reliable, is the noticeable increase in farm vehicles on the roads and in our fields. Nobody does weather prediction better than farmers.

After such a prolonged winter, farmers are itching to start all those spring jobs, be it spreading slurry and fertiliser, or relocating livestock from winter housing into the fields. Tractors, tankers, jeeps and spreaders have arisen from their winter slumber.

In the rush to start working though, owners of agricultural machinery should take time to check the safety and roadworthiness of their equipment. Failure to do so could put you and others at risk, and, in some circumstances, invalidate your insurance cover. Insurance is, of course, the transfer of risk, but the contract between insurer and customer is a two-way street. Insurers will make good their promise of cover, assuming that the insured has taken reasonable precautions and adhered to policy conditions.

There are some basic checks which should be standard practice. All vehicles and trailers must have clean mirrors and windows. Lights and indicators must also be working (tractors turning right with no indication is a particular difficulty for other road users), and number plates must be clearly displayed. Before heading out drivers should take a quick look around their vehicle, making sure that safety guards on all exposed areas are in place.

A useful acronym to follow is ‘TIMID'. Non-farmers may not be aware, but agricultural vehicles are exempt from ‘T' for road Tax. There is a catch though, farmers must complete the paperwork and apply every year for their exemption. Next up is ‘I' for ‘Insured' – all vehicles, agricultural or not, need to be insured when on a public road in order to comply with the Road Traffic Act. And yes, that does include short journeys between field and farm, and crossing public roads.

‘M' is for MOT. Again, non-farmers may be surprised to learn that agricultural tractors don't actually require one. For insurance purposes though, all policies insist that all vehicles must be kept roadworthy so servicing and maintenance are not areas that can be avoided.

As noted above, all vehicles must have ‘I', an ‘Identification' plate and be registered with the DVLA. An applicable ‘D' for Drivers Licence is also needed, and all points, convictions and accidents for all drivers – not just the policyholder – need to be declared. These are all relatively simple things to do, but neglecting them could put your cover at risk.

Another topical issue worth considering is does your insurance adequately cover the value of your farm vehicle?

A combination of Sterling's depreciation with less supply in the second-hand market has meant that the value of some vehicles has risen. It may be that that piece of indispensable kit is now under-insured and you may not get the full market value in the event of a total loss. Check values with a local dealer to make sure your sums insured are correct.

:: Richard Henderson is the head of agri insurance at Autoline Insurance Group (www.autoline.co.uk)

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